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Cablegate: Jordanians Rally Against Yassin Killing; Violence

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 002395

SIPDIS

INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC IS JO KPAL PTER
SUBJECT: JORDANIANS RALLY AGAINST YASSIN KILLING; VIOLENCE
MARS CAMP PROTESTS

REF: AMMAN 2197

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Jordanian expressions of anger and frustration
after Israel's killing of HAMAS founder Sheikh Yassin were
capped by large demonstrations throughout Jordan following
Friday prayers on March 26. Security sources reported that
the vast majority received prior approval from the government
and came off without incident, but an unlicensed
demonstration in an Amman refugee camp turned violent,
resulting in property destruction, clashes with security
forces, and arrests. The Islamic Action Front accused police
of beating one of its members of Parliament during the fray,
and Parliament is forming a committee to investigate the
incident. For its part, the GOJ continued its show of
solidarity with the public in protesting the assassination.
King Abdullah in a press interview again condemned the
attack. PM Faisal al-Fayez condoled Sheikh Yassin at the
Palestinian Embassy and members of Parliament started a fund
to raise money for the families of those killed in the
attack. Jordanian officials thus far appear to have stayed
one step ahead of the demonstrators by joining in street
protests and sanctioning rallies to allow people to express
their anger. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- --------
FRIDAY PROTESTS LARGELY PEACEFUL, EXCEPT IN THE CAMPS
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (SBU) Jordanian expressions of outrage over the March 22
Israeli killing of HAMAS leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin continued
throughout the week, culminating in large protests after
Friday prayers throughout Jordan on March 26. The GOJ
authorized the vast majority of requests to demonstrate, and
the security services were out in force throughout Jordan in
anticipation of the protests. The largest protest again
occurred at al-Hussein Mosque in downtown Amman (ref), where
approximately 2,500 people rallied March 26 after Friday
prayers, according to police sources. An estimated 700 also
gathered at the Professional Associations building for a
pro-Palestinian rally which highlighted political speeches.
Many others demonstrated in separate rallies in Irbid,
Ramtha, Mafraq, and Zarqa. The Islamic Action Front also
organized protests in Ajloun, Sweileh, and Madaba, according
to local press.

3. (SBU) Police reported that violence again erupted during
demonstrations at al-Baqaa and al-Wihdat refugee camps when
demonstrators and/or roving bands of youths carried out acts
of vandalism and burned tires, resulting in clashes with
police and arrests. The unruly situation in al-Wihdat
prompted the Governor of Amman to seek intervention from
member of Parliament and Islamic Action Front member Tayseer
al-Fityani (presumably because the IAF had a role in
organizing the rally). According to a statement from the IAF
on the incident, al-Fityani, his son, and an attorney were
beaten severely by police in the fray.

4. (SBU) The Interior Ministry provided a slightly
different take on events, saying in a public statement that
the demonstrations took an "unexpected turn," and "violated
security and public order. (Protesters) attacked
al-Ashrafiyah Police Center and the shops located on the main
road, and set fire to tires in the middle of the road." It
said that police intervened after demonstrators and shop
owners and others clashed, resulting in arrests. According
to Jordan's local news agency, a delegation representing
al-Wihdat met with Interior Minister Habashneh the next day
and denounced the "acts of sabotage" during the protests. MP
Mohammad al-Kuz said citizens of the camp do not accept what
happened, adding that there were a number of "intruders" who
came only to lead the riots.

5. (U) During Parliament's session on March 28, Speaker
Abdul Hadi Majali referred to the "regretful incidents" at
al-Wihdat camp, saying: "The incidents, which we completely
reject, include the destruction of private property and the
burning of the Jordanian flag as well as an assault on MP
Tayseer al-Fityani." According to press reports, the
Parliament will form a committee to investigate the incident.


--------------------------------------------- -------------
KING CONDEMNS "EMBARRASSING" CRIME; MPS START MARTYRS FUND
--------------------------------------------- -------------

6. (U) GOJ officials continued to show solidarity with
Jordanians' opposition to the Israeli attack. In an
interview with London-based al-Hayat newspaper (carried by
Jordan's local press on March 29), King Abdullah described
Yassin's assassination as a shocking crime, and called on the
world community to put an end to Israel's "arbitrary
measures." The King said: "This crime was very embarrassing
to us because it occurred two days after I met with Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon." He said the meeting with
Sharon had left him with the impression that Israel would
work with Jordan in moving the peace process forward, but
Sharon instead carried out the attack. He added that he
hoped during his Washington trip to determine "what we can do
in support of the roadmap peace plan despite the fact that
the Americans will be occupied with the forthcoming
elections."

7. (U) Prime Minister Faisal al-Fayez on March 24 visited
the Palestinian Embassy to offer condolences. Members of
Parliament and Arab ambassadors in Amman also visited the
Embassy to pay their respects. In addition to the
Palestinian Embassy in Amman, the Muslim Brotherhood and
Najjar Family (cousins of Sheikh Yassin) also accepted
condolences for the HAMAS leader. The Muslim Brotherhood --
which has close ties to HAMAS -- on March 24 and 25 also
organized a ceremony in front of the Islamic Hospital in the
Abdali area of Amman to "celebrate the martyrdom" of Sheikh
Yassin.

8. (U) The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs earlier in
the week announced special prayers would be held in Jordan's
mosques for Sheikh Yassin. The Jordanian Cabinet and
Parliament started their respective sessions on March 24 with
a moment of silence and recitation of the Fatiha for the soul
of the HAMAS leader. Prime Minister Faisal al-Fayez declared
that Jordan was "the first country to condemn Israeli crimes,
and we shall not cease our moves until these crimes stop,"
according to local press reports.

9. (U) On March 24, more than 30 members of Parliament
committed to giving 9JD ($12.50) a month to the families of
HAMAS members killed in the Israeli strike against Sheikh
Yassin. In the days after Yassin's killing, many Jordanian
cars displayed pictures of the deceased HAMAS leader in the
rear window of their vehicles -- a place usually reserved for
portraits of Jordan's kings. Jordanian newspapers were
filled with condolences to HAMAS and Yassin's family.

-------
COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) The GOJ managed to stay ahead of the
demonstrators and limit incidents of violence by joining
protests and making the decision from the beginning to allow
people to rally and release steam. However, much anger
remains, as well as even deepening skepticism about the
roadmap process. Jordanians perceive that diplomatic efforts
to revive the peace process are hopelessly stalled, and
challenge the sincerity of Israeli leaders' commitment to a
political process. Conversations with our interlocutors are
tainted with a sense of foreboding that the situation across
the river will only get worse.

Visit Embassy Amman's classified web site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/amman or access the site
through the State Department's SIPRNET home page.
GNEHM

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